"We were just two boys who wanted to grow up to be rock stars"
Original Quiet Riot bassist Kelly Garni on his incredible friendship with Randy Rhoads from his page-turning 2013 book 'Angels With Dirty Faces.'
And they did grow up to be rock stars. For a short, yet impactful time, both Kelly Garni and Randy Rhoads, endeared as childhood friends, would contribute to sounds loudly ruminating around Los Angeles. As did the other members of Quiet Riot's first configuration, Kevin DuBrow (RIP) and drummer Drew Forsyth. Of course, Randy's rising star and pure musical virtuosity would take him far beyond his neighborhood of Burbank, California in his all-too-short life. In his 25 years, Rhoads made a nearly unequaled impact on the world with his guitar heroism. His storied career was and has been covered in every magazine and all over the Internet. And rightfully so. There has also been quite a bit written about Rhoads' early days, his development as a player, and, to an extent, his development as a person. And this is precisely what Kelly Garni's book, Angels With Dirty Faces (2003), helps to beautifully illuminate in all its rough-edged glory.
Garni and Rhoads met while students at John Muir High School in Burbank, California. Garni, like other students, couldn't help but take notice of Randy – not just because of how he looked and dressed, but for his intriguing air of "secret confidence." Soon, the pair would become best friends and in Garni's words, "inseparable." Randy had only just begun to take interest in playing the guitar. By the time they entered the eighth grade, they had devised a plan which allowed them to concentrate their energy on practicing music. They would covertly set up their instruments at Kelly's house the night before, pretend to go off to school, and circle back to Kelly's to jam all day instead. Often as loudly as possible. This would lead to the tale of a young Randy getting arrested later at his home (as told in Kelly's book) for causing a "public disturbance." One of several times the duo would have a run-in with the cops. Ah, youth.
Randy and Kelly's days as Quiet Riot would of course come, but not before some trial and error in a few other bands they would play in such as Katzenjammer Kids. They would also go through several drummers prior to Drew Forsyth. After taking in a show by Alice Cooper, both Randy and Kelly would take the job of looking and vibing like Cooper and his clan very seriously. This would lead to some very scary times for both of the teens at school where they would be referred to by homophobic slurs such as "faggot" and "queers." The harassment got so bad the principal had to intervene and on at least one occasion drove both Garni and Randy home so the two weren't beaten to a pulp by an ugly mob. Undeterred, their persistence would get them some time on stage at the ever-popular backyard gigs in and around the neighborhoods of LA. Interestingly, this was around the same time a band calling themselves Mammoth (soon to be Van Halen) was doing the very same thing. Drummer Drew Forsyth (who was a High School classmate of Randy's sister Kathy at Burbank High School) would help the band, then known as Mildred Pierce (named for the film because, according to Kelly, that seemed like "something Alice Cooper would do"), played the Battle of the Bands at Kennedy High – which they won easily with their covers of Alice Cooper, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles, as well as a few originals songs.
With still two years to go in High School for Randy and Kelly, Kevin DuBrow (already out of High School), became a part of the mix, and school would become a distant memory for both Rhoads and Kelly. Randy would enroll in Burbank High School, but he would not graduate as the lure of Rodney Binginheimer's nightclub English Disco and rock and roll were far too great for either of them to resist. DuBrow would also introduce a pretty strict practice schedule – five nights a week from 6-11 pm. At the time, they were still calling themselves Little Women until the night DuBrow, who had previously worked as a photographer, told a story about meeting Status Quo guitarist Richie Parfett while taking photos for the band. Somehow their conversation turned to what Parfett said he would call his own band if he could name it himself. He then conjured up his dream two-word band name; "Quite Right." To DuBrow, that sounded like "Quiet Riot" and went on to get impossibly stuck in his brain. One night during practice he suggested the name to Kelly, Drew, and Randy and that was it. Quiet Riot was born.
Onto the band’s first gig as Quiet Riot gig at the 1975 Burbank Senior Prom. It kind of reads like a sweet 80s movie script, so get ready.
As you now know, Randy and Kelly weren't exactly "missing" school, they were barely there, if at all. In fact, Kelly never attended Burbank High School but would join Randy briefly at continuation school within the Burbank High School system. So, when Drew Forsyth (who was still a student at Burbank High) got the call asking him if his band would like to perform at the Senior Prom at the La Canada Country Club (Burbank proms were classy affairs), for the low, low price of $50 (not per person, for the whole band), he immediately said yes. They rehearsed like maniacs for two solid weeks. As you might imagine, by this time, Little Women/Quiet Riot had earned themselves a pretty solid reputation as a band, and this would shift the misperception that Kelly and Randy were a couple of misfits. They had finally been accepted by the same crowd that wanted to beat them up for wearing tight slacks and platform shoes, as before their big prom gig, they had been popular regulars for a while at surfer parties and backyard BBQs frequented by their peers. But this would be the first time they would be known as Quiet Riot performing in front of a live audience. Things had seemingly come full circle for everyone until Garni, in a moment taken right out of Nicholas Cage's playbook from the 1983 film Valley Girl (as the ironically named character Randy), decided to kiss a popular social named (you can't' make this up) Julie (the name of Randy's love interest in Valley Girl). Apparently, Julie had the secret hots for Kelly, though she had a jock boyfriend. At a party after the big show at the prom, a bunch of jocks pounced on Kelly for smooching his dream girl, causing him to flee the party for safer parts of Burbank.
Before we wrap up, another person involved with Quiet Riot's early days was photographer and future filmmaker and author, Ron Sobol. Lucky for us (and the rest of the world), Ron was also at the La Canada Country Club the night Quiet Riot played their very first gig as Quiet Riot taking photos, as he often was back in the day. The very generous Sobol exclusively provided to Metal Injection a few photographs of Quiet Riot's performance at the prom in 1975. Randy would have been nineteen at the time. You can also listen to some of QR's early music which, if you were not aware, has just been pressed on vinyl for the first time since the late 1970s. The recordings come from QR's three-song 1975 EP, Suicidal Show, which was pressed in extremely limited quantity by blink-and-you-missed-them LA label Magic Wand Productions. Also included is material from Quiet Riot (or Quiet Riot I/1977) and Quiet Riot II (1978) which were released in Japan. The original masters of Quiet Riot's early catalog of work were owned by Metal Health/Quiet Riot era drummer, the late Frankie Banali. When Banali passed in 2020, his wife Regina sold the masters to record label No Remorse Records in Athens, Greece which has been around since 1998.
According to Garni, the masters had naturally deteriorated over time and had to be baked in order to improve their condition and reverse what is known as "sticky shed syndrome." Once the tapes had been restored, they were pressed into 180 gram black as well as blue, red, and silver vinyl (limited to 200 copies each) and CD. Pre-orders are going on now with an estimated ship date sometime at the end of June of 2022 in case you, like yours truly, need to add them to your ever-regrowing heavy metal vinyl collection.
MI would like to thank Kelly Garni (who I spoke to on the phone for this article), and Ron Sobol for the exclusive use of his photos of Quiet Riot (which to our knowledge have never been published before), in this post. Also, "exclusive use" also means "don't be a dick and repost these images without crediting the original source."